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Watchdog slams police chief Add to ...

Vancouver Police Chief Jamie Graham undermined public confidence in an independent review of complaints against officers in his department, the B.C. Police Complaints Commissioner says.

In a scathing indictment of the police chief, Commissioner Dirk Ryneveld said in a report released yesterday that Chief Graham made statements that were not true and showed an error in judgment in response to an independent review of complaints against.

Mr. Ryneveld's findings suggest that Chief Graham's job should be on the line, John Richardson, the executive director of Pivot Legal Society, said later in an interview.

The police commissioner identified "a pretty profound systemic problem," Mr. Richardson said.

He said Mr. Ryneveld showed that management of the Vancouver Police Department has problems with accountability. "Not only is there a large number of rank-and-file officers who are not co-operating with this complaints process, but the problem goes right up to the level of police chief himself," Mr. Richardson said.

Someone is going to have to consider whether Chief Graham should continue in the job, Mr. Richardson said. He added Pivot doesn't have a position on the matter.

However, Chief Graham strenuously defended his actions and said he would not resign. "Absolutely not," he said later at a news conference. "This is not a bed of roses, you are a lightning rod. But my role is to comment and speak on behalf of the organization, and I'm going to continue to do it."

Pivot, a community activist group, had asked the police complaints commissioner to review sworn affidavits from 50 residents of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside who said police mistreated them.

The group alleged the complaints demonstrated systemic problems in the way police treated people in the low-income, drug-infested neighbourhood.

After more than 220 interviews over 14 months, the RCMP concluded that 11 complaints could be substantiated, although none of the evidence was sufficient to support a criminal charge. The RCMP review cost $800,000.

Chief Graham then launched an internal investigation that concluded that none of the complaints could be substantiated. That review cost $200,000.

The RCMP was asked to conduct an independent review after Chief Graham made comments that indicated he had prejudged the validity of the complaints, Mr. Ryneveld said yesterday. Chief Graham undermined the integrity of the review in several ways, the commissioner said. Chief Graham advised the RCMP that some officers would not co-operate, which may have indicated to some that they were not required to do so. When they did not co-operate, he did not impose sanctions.

"I am troubled by the fact that VPD, in effect, thwarted the purpose of my ordering an external investigation," Mr. Ryneveld told reporters. "The fact that VPD came to different conclusions than the [independent review by the]RCMP does nothing to instill confidence in the process of an independent external investigation."

Mr. Ryneveld endorsed the RCMP conclusion that the evidence did not indicate systemic abuse by officers.

But he did not agree with the conclusion of Chief Graham's review that none of the complaints could be substantiated. He called for Chief Graham to reconsider how he will handle five complaints. The commissioner made it clear he would consider holding public hearings into the complaints if Chief Graham did not reverse his decision.

Mr. Ryneveld also called for the provincial government to change legislation to compel officers to co-operate with an independent review of complaints.

"If you don't force officers to acknowledge their legislative duty to account, if you turn a blind eye to that, it only encourages future lack of co-operation," he added.

Chief Graham said he would refer two of the complaints to the police board and would look into the other three. On the issue of lack of co-operation, he said clarity is needed on what an officer is required to do.

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